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Gibson writes: "There is no doubt that [Sandra] Fluke would do a fine job as a state senator in Sacramento, but the endorsement by Emily's List shows the true problem within our movement - our lack of intersectionality."

Should Sandra Fluke have been the choice to replace Henry Waxman? (photo: Getty Images)
Should Sandra Fluke have been the choice to replace Henry Waxman? (photo: Getty Images)

Our Movement Must Desegregate, or We'll Lose

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

13 February 14


hen Sandra Fluke was called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh for simply demanding contraception coverage, America ran to her defense. When Fluke testified before Congress about her story, she spoke eloquently about how this particular women’s justice issue also impacts the economic stability of women all over the country when threatened. And when she spoke before thousands at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, she proved that she has both the rhetorical skill and the passionate drive necessary to truly stand up for women and the economically marginalized of society. So when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) announced his retirement, Fluke intended to run to be his replacement.

However, after Emily’s List – the cream of the crop of endorsements for female candidates seeking federal office – made it a point to endorse Wendy Greuel for that seat, Fluke announced she would run for state senate instead. The endorsement of Greuel is particularly short-sighted: she ran as a fiscal conservative in the 2013 mayoral race in Los Angeles. While Greuel may be a champion on reproductive rights and abortion access, which is the single issue of focus for Emily’s List, she proposed eliminating Los Angeles’ business tax and promoted charter schools and “school choice,” which usually means public money funding private schools instead of public education. Greuel’s economic policies would increase inequality, and make life generally harder for both women and men.

There is no doubt that Fluke would do a fine job as a state senator in Sacramento, but the endorsement by Emily’s List shows the true problem within our movement – our lack of intersectionality. If we truly want to achieve our goals of economic justice, reproductive rights, climate mitigation, immigration rights, and an end to poverty, racism and war, we have to think intersectionally.

“If I’m struggling from my issue, and it’s the most important issue to me, because that’s where my wound is, I have to open my heart and say, she’s got a wound too,” said Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues" and lead organizer of One Billion Rising. “My struggle has got to be connected to her wound and her struggle, so we can keep widening and keep strengthening, so we can talk about true justice.”

Ensler was speaking about February 14th’s V-Day, an international day of action known as One Billion Rising for Justice, as part of the “State of Female Justice in America” panel hosted by Columbia University’s Institute on Intersectionality and Social Policy.

In 2013, One Billion Rising – a global dance flashmob – was organized in 207 countries, trended nationally on Twitter in seven of those countries, and made 600 million total media impressions. Ensler said because 1 in 3 women in the world have been raped and beaten, that makes for roughly 1 billion women around the world who she wanted dancing in public. According to Ensler, because women who have been raped are often less confident in their own space, the act of dancing is the act of taking back that public space and showing global solidarity with women all over the world. In 2014, the February 14th action has been changed to “One Billion Rising for Justice.”

“Justice is, for me, is restoring the primacy of connection. We just don’t connect with each other or each other’s issues anymore. We need to look at justice as connective, how we connect causes and connections, how we connect the whole story of violence, and look at the whole history of injustice, and see it as systemic, rather than our own single issue,” Ensler said. “It’s connected to this racist, patriarchal, neoliberal, capitalist framework. Unless we begin to hook this up, we’re never gonna move it further.”

One example of women’s justice intersecting with economic justice is the ongoing strikes organized by fast food and retail workers. In December 2013, fast food workers walked off the job, demanding better wages and the right to organize a union in over 100 cities. And on Black Friday, Walmart workers went on strike protesting the fact that despite being employed by the most profitable company in the history of the world, they have to rely on public assistance to meet basic needs. At least 110 of those workers were arrested in acts of civil disobedience.

“The restaurant industry is the largest employer of young women all over the world, and these women are subject to the treatment of people who feel they can touch or treat them however they want,” said Saru Jayaraman of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), and author of Behind the Kitchen Door. Jayaraman has been working with ROC United for the last decade, organizing restaurant workers to take a stand for better working conditions.

Jayaraman cited what she called “the other NRA,” referring to the National Restaurant Association, the prime opponent of raising wages for tipped workers. In 1996, Herman Cain, who was then the president of the other NRA, made a deal with Congress, saying his organization wouldn’t oppose overall minimum wage increases as long as the federal minimum wage for tipped workers stayed frozen at $2.13 an hour. Even though the restaurant industry is by far the fastest-growing and most increasingly profitable industry, tipped workers have been making $2.13 an hour for over 23 years now. Tipped workers also suffer from 3 times the poverty rate of workers in other industries, and 70 percent of tipped workers are women. 37 percent of on-the-job sexual harassment claims reported come from the restaurant industry.

“If you live on $2.13 an hour, you don’t live on a wage at all, because it’s almost all gone after taxes. You live entirely on your tips,” said Jayaraman. “When you live entirely on your tips, you are at the mercy of the largesse of people who dine in your establishment, who can touch you, treat you, talk to you as inappropriately as they want, and you have no recourse because that is your income, the people who are paying your tips.”

One of the most pressing issues within movements is bridging the gap between what organizers call “silos.” For example, some people work on immigration, some work on workers’ rights, some work on climate change, some work on austerity. Duncan Meisel, environmental organizer at as well as a former US Uncut organizer, is working on breaking down those silos so movement organizers can more effectively share space, instead of competing for it. Meisel is speaking at the Brecht Forum in New York City on February 20th, 2014, about how climate change and austerity-based social movements can intersect.

“Climate change is not an issue. It’s a global crisis that impacts the fundamental conditions surrounding every major economic and transnational justice issue we care about,” Meisel wrote on his Tumblr. “From the sweatshops of Bangladesh, filled with people displaced by flooding in years of unprecedented storms, to the changing patterns of immigration bringing more people to the US as community support systems are destabilized by changing weather patter[n]s, as well as the immigrant families here who face incredible hurdles in rebuilding from disaster.”

“Much of your work already IS climate work. Adding the climate lens and language to your work is potentially strategic,” Meisel continued. “Not least of all because it bridges a gap to connect our struggles as we confront a global crisis.”

The struggle against neoliberal colonization of economic systems is a global one, as is the fight to reduce the impact of climate change and the fights for a more equitable immigration system and for women’s reproductive rights. The sooner we can get rid of the harmful, counterproductive single-issue politics perpetrated by people like those who make endorsement decisions at Emily’s List, the sooner we can win our goals. We cannot afford to remain so narrowly focused, or we’ll lose not only our own fight, but every other fight that intersects.

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

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+37 # tswhiskers 2014-02-13 09:51
Mr. Gibson is so right. There are so many problems in today's society that we can't afford to run or support single issues. We need a progressive or a Democrat agenda that people can support entirely. Most of us know what it would contain. These issues have been discussed for years: access to abortion and birth control, repeal of voter ID laws, equal pay for women, a raise in the minimum wage, a jobs bill, continuation of the ACA, the immigration bill. To these might be added concrete action on global warming and bills or enforcement of existing law against corporate polluters. If we could get united support among Dems for all or most of these problems, I think we would have a platform that most Americans would vote for. The fact that there are so many areas of need surely speaks to the lack of everyday realism in the Rep. agenda. Which reminds me; we need a bill to increase taxes on the wealthy and a way to penalize those who keep their wealth in foreign tax havens. One reason, never mentioned in the media, why our debt is so big is the fact that upper tax rates are too low and the rest of us can't take up the slack.
+1 # Johnny 2014-02-14 12:42
If you don't make the connection between funding endless wars for Israel and destroying the domestic economy, you are just pissing into the wind.
+2 # lorenbliss 2014-02-16 14:53
Mr. Gibson and Eve Ensler are correct about the need for “intersectional ity,” never mind it's a confusing euphemism clearly intended to avoid the implicitly Marxist terms “ideological solidarity” and “ideological discipline” – both of which the USian Left self-destructiv ely reject.

But the claim by tswhiskers the Democratic Party might foster such solidarity and discipline is absurd. The Democrats – who maliciously conceal their fascist zealotry beneath progressive slogans – are the primary deceiver in USian politics. By contrast, the Republicans have been a vessel of USian fascism since the 1920s and, now as then, make no secret of it. Thus the de facto one-party rule that defines USian governance.

Emily's List's endorsement of “fiscal conservatism” – a euphemism for Ayn Rand economics – is typical of the Ayn Rand feminism spawned by capitalist co-optation of the USian feminist movement. As the loss of jobs and income characteristic of Ayn Rand savagery subjugates the USian 99 Percent, women are denied reproductive freedom by the loss of health insurance, a fact carefully suppressed by Emily's List and the Democrats in general. Nor – despite Big Lies to the contrary -- does Obamacare provide a satisfactory alternative.

Meanwhile, Rand herself has become an USian feminist heroine, which explains not just the Emily's List stance, but bourgeois white USian feminism's tacit approval of capitalist malevolence.
+11 # universlman 2014-02-13 10:49
Many of our politicians are part of a growing class of beautiful losers. Does any thinking person believe that it is sustainable for Congress to maintain an approval rating in the teens?

If they ever look up from the rice bowl of their next election, they will see that they do not form a party at all. Some urgent movement that they have blithely swept "off the table" will soon eclipse their narrow and selfish view.
+5 # RLF 2014-02-14 06:46
Your mistake is to think today's politician gives a wit about public opinion. The only opinion they care about is the one they get paid to care about. Democrats need to hit the unjust spots to get elected and not stop but the won't because most of them are going to hurt their monetary constituency. Let's hit on giant corps like Walmart not paying sales and property taxes while mom and pop stores do to pay for the infrastructure used by the big boxes. Let's hit one GE paying no taxes and actually getting money back...and a zillion other companies. Let's go for actual tax paid rates for the wealthy and capital gains tax rates. Every one of these is going to step on the toes of democrap's pimps and won't be touched even if it would win for them.
+6 # Roger Kotila 2014-02-13 11:04
The challenge for activists is to both recapture America from the dinosaurs (Big Money, neo-con's, Pentagon, NATO), and at the same time develop a worldwide political movement to deal with the multinational corporate dominated globalization whose success has been aided by the equivalent of shadow government secret operations (overthrowing governments, NSA, trade agreements developed without public input or regulation, etc.).

Gibson's complaint against "single issue politics" needs to be taken to the global level. We must both "fix America"(which will help greatly), but simultaneously put in place a new geopolitical system.

The United Nations tries, but its flawed Charter insures that there is no democratic, effective global voice on behalf of "we, the people". The UN cannot protect the world public interest from the dinosaurs whose predatory appetite takes down nation after nation.

So how to end "neoliberal colonization of economic systems" which Mr. Gibson correctly describes as a global problem?

That's where I continue to say that the Earth Federation Movement's Earth Constitution should be embraced. It has the potential to unite and empower activists working on different fronts in the struggle against the dinosaurs who are busy making serfs out of "we, the people" both in the U.S., and in other countries.
+26 # Mimi Kennedy 2014-02-13 11:05
As National Advisory Board Chair of Progressive Democrats of America, I not only agree wholeheartedly with Carl Gibson's critique, I've participated in the work of trying to get out of silos and connected to Democrats, at least, who see a future and want to vigorously "progress" (verb) towards it. I've felt guilty in the past for not feeling great about Emily's List. But Gibson names it: it's because it's so single focus that they've ended up endorsing women who, for instance, cheered for the Iraq War. Or support policies of the "corporate patriarchy" ( Vandana Shiva coined that phrase, I think, and it's useful!) in a mode that reminds me of compliant, obedient daughters They endorse so many obedient women, I think - Wendy Greuel was a perfect example. Party progressives in my area repudiated her and endorsed a man more progressive on social issues. I can never figure out why Emily's List disconnects in this way. It is a drag on Movement-buildi ng - let's hope they become more discerning and support women who are progressive across the board, not just on choice.
+22 # reiverpacific 2014-02-13 11:08
I can't resist it: many of the >1/2 of Senators and Congress-critte rs who are members of the millionaires club live on but get rich with tips too; the tippers are called "Lobbyists" (formerly "Burrowers") -and that's on top of the generous salaries and lifetime benefits WE are forced to pay them to do little or nothing except work against our best interests.
Perhaps we can find a way to cut them off and force THEM to live on $2.13/Hr (How DO they come up with these figures???) -NO tips: Hell, they couldn't do a server's job or anything productive to earn them anyway.
BTW, you can thank that conservative-sa inted super-fink, Ronnie "Aw shucks" Ray-gun for coming up with the law requiring servers to pay taxes on their tips, in a typical burst of mean-spirited, poor-hating legislation!
I'd like to see Ms Fluke prevail in her aspirations to office deserving of a grassroots activist but also to see ol' Limpballs chew the toenails off the foot he shot himself in by calling her a "Slut", before taking an overdose of Viagra and pain killers then dying, to be found ignominiously with a permanent -well, I'll leave the rest to y'r imaginations and spare the more prudish among you unnecessary pain!
+13 # michelle 2014-02-13 11:20
Thanks for that last paragraph. Now I have to clean up the coffee I spewed all over my keyboard laughing so hard. Good way to start the morning!
+2 # RLF 2014-02-14 06:50
It would be 2" long...why do you think he is so mean spirited?
-16 # 2014-02-13 11:25
Oh it's a MOVEMENT alright.....and straight through a particular kind of "silo".
+11 # reiverpacific 2014-02-13 12:16
Oh it's a MOVEMENT alright.....and straight through a particular kind of "silo".

Like the bile you spew out of yer personal "silo" -or arsehole if you like!
+23 # shgo 2014-02-13 11:29
so right to criticize Emily's List for their endorsement. Gruel is not a feminist or a progressive and deserves no support from women anywhere! It's why I stopped supporting Emily's List several years ago. Fluke should be encouraged to run for Congress, a much better candidate for the seat and a progressive.
+2 # Concerned Citizen 2014-02-13 11:59
The problem is that the labels (liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican) to which we cling divide us but are no longer useful tools for distinguishing political action. This short article spells out a solution in an intriguing fashion:
+1 # Walter J Smith 2014-02-13 15:06
The article at hand has a better case (of "the labels [liberal, conservative, etc.,..."] and the confusions/dist ractions/divisi ons you indicate if only we look at it:

"The struggle against neoliberal colonization of economic systems is a global one, as is the fight to reduce the impact of climate change and the fights for a more equitable immigration system and for women’s reproductive rights."

The case against the term "neoliberal colonialization " is that the term itself confuses the classic "status quo conservative" which both parties are more than anything else, with another classic political disease: "colonialism". Colonialism is a classic political disease peculiar to empires. Where there is no empire meddling in other people's business, there is no colonialism.

There is almost nothing 'neoliberal' about either party. Both hate classic liberalism in all but a very few, mostly symbolic gestures; and both zealously embrace classic liberalism's sexism, racism, & the war against nature.

We face both of these political diseases here, and both major political parties specialize in boosting these very diseases on behalf of the most irresponsible (social & economic & biospheric & spiritual & moral) interest groups in our society: the kleptocrats/plutocrats.

Those two parties themselves are the nexus & trading floor of all the major ills that confront our society.
-23 # Peter Attwood 2014-02-13 12:32
I'm one of those people that think reproductive rights founded on the killing of small vulnerable human beings is not essentially different from American security founded on the killing of small vulnerable human beings by starvation or drone bombings.

I can be co-belligerent with lots of people on particular issues, but I can't be really on the same team as anybody who accepts the principal that anybody ought to be burned in the fire to Molech in order to gain prosperity, convenience, security, or any of these things for which people think it proper to kill or oppress innocent human beings.
+13 # dascher 2014-02-13 13:51
SO you think women don't have any reproductive rights?

How about women who terminate a pregnancy that threatens their health or life? just too bad for them, eh?

How compassionate of you.
+13 # ReconFire 2014-02-13 16:13
And how many of these unwanted children have you adopted?? I'm betting NONE.
+3 # RLF 2014-02-14 06:53
They are mostly the wrong color for him...he wouldn't touch them!
+5 # economagic 2014-02-13 20:13
You are entitled to your beliefs, and to your own code of morality, and your ignorance (from my standpoint) is both pardonable and remediable. May I assume, then, that like Colman McCarthy you are truly "pro-life": a vegan, opposed to all war, capital punishment, etc.? If so, I hope you are dedicating a portion of your energies to helping eliminate the many reasons that women seek abortions, of which remorse over sexual promiscuity appears to be but a small one.

Or if abortion is your one big evil that keeps you from making common cause with people with whom you otherwise agree, I hope you will reach out to women who have had abortions, to learn why and to hear their own anguish.

As for "co-belligerenc e," I am presently enjoying some dialog with a gentleman who is strongly of the opinion that we need to avoid even the appearance of belligerence on any issue, and to be only for what we are for and never against. A pacifist for more than fifty years, I am not sure that is possible, but it is an intriguing idea.
+4 # RLF 2014-02-14 06:53
Well then don't kill any of your babies but leave other to make their own fucking decisions arshole.
0 # tswhiskers 2014-02-14 10:27
It's funny that most (tho not all) people who oppose abortion in this country are men. They know and care nothing for the discomfort and the risks attending any pregnancy. They don't have to raise the product of these pregnancies, indeed many men desert their spouses when they have children (e.g. Barack Obama) rather than spend the money, time and responsibility of raising their offspring. They are often incredibly ignorant of female biology, e.g. the "fact" that raped women are naturally protected from pregnancy. I once read a statement that if men could get pregnant, abortion would become a sacrament. I think men should stay out of the abortion debate unless their wives are pregnant or have children; only then would most men have any experience on which to base an opinion.
+10 # zee 2014-02-13 12:51
Emily's List endorsing Wendy Greuel is revolting. Emily, your yeast isn't rising when you back a conservative anti-progress member of either gender. Like Clinton, you have no shame.
+10 # reiverpacific 2014-02-13 19:49
Quoting Peter Attwood:
I'm one of those people that think reproductive rights founded on the killing of small vulnerable human beings is not essentially different from American security founded on the killing of small vulnerable human beings by starvation or drone bombings.

I can be co-belligerent with lots of people on particular issues, but I can't be really on the same team as anybody who accepts the principal that anybody ought to be burned in the fire to Molech in order to gain prosperity, convenience, security, or any of these things for which people think it proper to kill or oppress innocent human beings.

What the fuck has that got to do with this article subject-matter -except as a vague rider on the rape rate worldwide?
It's alway's GUYS, including too many of those in power and the different male-dominated churches, who run their bloody mouths off about what women should do with their bodies.
"Fire to Molech" -sheesh!! What Old-testament Biblical fire-and-brimst one claptrap.
Start with those chicken hawk warmongers that send young, inexperienced, untraveled Americans to strange alien lands to put their inhabitants -and themselves- through the fire of Corporate/ Military "Molech" for profit.
As George Carlin once said "If you're pre-natal, you're fine, if you're post-natal, you're fucked -until you get to military age -----"!
+3 # RLF 2014-02-14 06:55
+5 # economagic 2014-02-13 21:07
Amid all the talk of "silos" and "issues" with which we are painfully familiar, it's worth remembering that not that long ago there was but one issue, typically called "tyranny." I have been proposing for some time that we resurrect this excellent but forgotten word that encompasses most aspects of "Man's inhumanity to man." Freedom from tyranny is not freedom from rules, and democracy is not "mob rule," as some of my cliche-prone Libertarian friends would have it.

Nearly two and a half centuries on, the Founders of this republic, for all their flaws that are at last being acknowledged, understood that the big issue is the extent to which a person has the right to tell another person what s/he must or must not do. I agree with my friends that this extent should be as small as is feasible. I part company with them on their silly insistence that any restraint upon business is impermissible on these grounds.

The freedom of business to pay $2.13/hour to people who have no alternative, even if such businesses were prohibited from having their will enacted into law (the "crony capitalism" which said Libertarians claim to decry), gives the owners of said businesses the power of life and death over others. It does so solely on the basis of their accumulated wealth, so to avoid the charge of elitism they claim that wealth results from merit, where merit is defined as the ability to gain wealth!

It was for this reason that another friend once called them "cowardly anarchists."
+2 # Johnny 2014-02-14 12:49
So long as pseudo-progress ives dominate the discourse, so nobody mentions the mass murder by the U.S. of women and babies in endless wars to promote the expansion of Israel, the hypocrisy of claiming to care about women’s rights in the U.S. is obvious, and refusal to mention the pissing away of our resources in those endless wars renders meaningless any suggestion of domestic economic reform. Even journalists, obviously, are terrified of the 800 pound AIPAC gorilla in the U.S. living room, and pretend they don’t see it.
+2 # teineitalia 2014-02-14 15:11
Carl Gibson once again sees the big picture here; which is that single issue politics divide and conquer. There is however, as he rightly noted, one overarching concern, and that is what we are doing to the natural world; that concern intersects and affects every other social and economic problem. I am a woman, and a member of the DNC- I side with the Progressive caucus- but I am not a fan of Emily's list, and this ridiculous endorsement is a case in point.

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